Being stared at in such a way, Li Yao felt weird. He frowned and asked, "Is there a problem?"
Gao Tieyi cleared his throat and regained his calmness. Collecting the virtual contracts of the other six Cultivators, he said solemnly, "Alright. Now that you've all signed the contract, congratulations on becoming official members of Occult Orbs Fellowship. In Occult Orbs Fellowship, we call you the Orb Patrollers!
"However, becoming an Orb Patroller does not mean you can explore the Occult Orbs right now.
"Every adventure to the Occult Orbs costs a huge amount of hard work and resources, not to mention that these places are full of dangers themselves.
"We do not want to send some rookies to hundreds of lightyears away and get them killed with a cost of more than half of a crystal warship!
"Therefore, the competition inside Occult Orbs Fellowship is very fierce. Unfortunately, some people are eliminated every month. Some have persisted for more than one year yet still failed to get an opportunity to enter an Occult Orb.
"Are you ready to face the challenges?"
The seven of them glanced at each other, while confident smiles appeared on their faces at the same time.
As Cultivators who were qualified to come to this place and signed the contracts to become Orb Patrollers, they were never scared of any challenge. On the contrary, they considered challenges to be the greatest pleasure in their lives.
"Then come with me."
The phantom of Gao Tieyi flowed out of the crystal airship.
Li Yao and the rest of them followed him in a line.
In front of them was a boundless desert, which was completely empty except for the several scarce oases. Not far away, a giant pillar rose up to the sky. It was translucent with various colors. Dozens of meters high and five meters in diameter, it was quite an eye-catcher in the desert.
On the surface of the giant pillar, many lines of words in great size were carved deep inside.
The words were just as colorful as the pillar that they were engraved on. Normally speaking, it would be hard to tell what they were.
However, Li Yao read them clearly although he was still dozens of meters away, as if something mysterious had transmitted the information contained in the words directly into his brain.
The words deeply carved inside the pillar were flowing and changing, as if they were virtual runes in a light beam.
Li Yao's curiosity was greatly aroused. He gazed at it, only to find three splendid words enshrouded in surging spiritual energy on the top part of the pillar.
"Rank of Stars!"
Below the three words were lines of names followed by a series of numbers.
"Team Thunder Soul!"
"Team Phantom Sea!"
"Team Heavenly Feather!"
A hundred team names filled the giant pillar.
"Senior Gao, what does this Rank of Stars mean? Is this a rank for the top experts in Occult Orbs Fellowship? But why are there only team names but no names of individuals?" Li Yao asked.
"Rank of Stars is indeed a rank of capability inside Occult Orbs Fellowship. It does not list individuals because Occult Orb explorations are never carried out single-handedly. They are always team operations.
Gao Tieyi further explained, "After hundreds of years of trials, we have come to the conclusion that an expedition team is best made up by four to six people.
"If the team members are too few, unexpected crises may not be handled easily; if the team members are too many, more barriers might be triggered, which may lead to chaos where the weak members will be the burden of the team.
"A Cultivator at the Building Foundation Stage is hardly able to survive the Occult Orbs by themselves anyway.
"Therefore, the Orb Patrollers setting off to the Occult Orbs are usually organized into 'Star Teams', each made up by four to six members. If the situation is special and more, or less, members are required, the mission will be much more dangerous.
"The 'Rank of Stars' are the rank of the 'Star Teams' based on their capability. Only when the team is among the top 100 will it be possible to enter the Occult Orbs.
"Note that it is just a possibility. If two teams want to explore the same Occult Orb and the conditions don't allow, usually, a match will be held to determine which of the two teams are more qualified for the mission.
"By 'capability', I mean a number which is calculated by taking the teams' previous achievements, the combat ability of team members, and the odds of winning against other teams,among other factors, into account.
"The Occult Orbs are full of dangers. The casualty rate of the teams is very high.
"Some Orb Patrollers choose to quit because of the overwhelming pressure.
"Due to various reasons as above, the teams often have a lot of vacancies which need to be filled by newcomers. So, it's a two-way selection between you and the teams. Once you are picked by a team, you'll be able to explore the Occult Orbs."
Li Yao nodded his head and pondered for a moment. Then he asked, "Only after I join a team will I be allowed to enter the Occult Orbs. But what if none of the top 100 teams are to my liking? Does that mean I will have no chance?"
Gao Tieyi smiled and said, "Many confident young men have asked exactly the same question before.
"If you think you are strong enough, you can form a team of your own.
"In the last three days of each month, the last ten teams in the Rank of Stars will be challenged by teams that are not in the list. If you can defeat one of them, you will be able to take their place and have the privilege of exploring the Occult Orbs.
"A kind warning, though. Don't waste your time. The teams that have been training in the Occult Orbs are all too strong for you to deal with. I suggest you just wait patiently to be recruited."
Li Yao thought of something and asked, "The scarred young man, Yan Jun, and the other Children of Occult Orbs with him, which team do they belong to?"
Gao Tieyi answered, "The team system only applies for Cultivators at the Building Foundation Stage. It is not suitable for Core Formation and Nascent Soul. Therefore, teams in the Rank of Stars are all made of Building Foundation Stage Cultivators.
"Although Yan Jun is just in the high level of the Building Foundation Stage, he is decisive, determined and daring. His survival ability in foreign environments is amazing. Team Thunder Soul, led by him, is the first in the Rank of Stars."
First in the Rank of Stars!
Team Thunder Soul!
Li Yao's eyes seemed to have been pricked. He squinted and craned his neck to look at the highest place of the Rank of Stars solemnly.
"Let's head to the downtown now."
Passing by the Rank of Stars, Li Yao found a vast teleportation array on the empty ground in front of him; it was sophisticated and flamboyant. It seemed much more advanced than the general teleportation arrays in the Heaven's Origin Sector.
The seven of them stood on the teleportation array. They felt a gentle breeze brushing their face, and, before they knew it, lively noise found its way into their ears.
They ended up in an enormous square in the middle of a prosperous, splendid metropolis!
Looking at the skyscrapers nearby, everyone felt dazzled.
But Li Yao was deep in thought. He raised his head and noticed that the blue sky and the white clouds were too vivid to be natural. They were more likely to be presented by a light beam with a super-high resolution.
It should be a man-made dome.
They should be underneath the launch bases.
The place is an underground ghost city.
But the facilities here were hundreds of times more advanced than those in the ordinary underground ghost cities. To say the very least, Li Yao could smell the fresh air with the scent of the earth, sense the moist wind brushing his skin, and feel gentle breeze combing his hair.
"We are a thousand meters under the ground of the Grand Desolate Plateau at present. This is Empyreal Star City, built up by technology from the Occult Orbs, which makes it the leading-edge city in the entire federation!"
Gao Tieyi declared proudly, "In this place, you can taste the best seafood in the world that has been delivered here through multiple teleportation arrays after it was caught just now; you can enjoy the delicious wine that has been preserved for decades, which even the Speaker of the Parliaments may not have the chance to drink. All kinds of extravagant needs can be satisfied here.
"For Cultivators, we have training rooms built up by the magical equipment in the Occult Orbs, some of which have been dismantled and transported to this place from crystal warships in the era of the Star Ocean Imperium directly!
"Anyways, you can get anything you want here. Whether you want to enjoy yourself or train crazily, you will be fully fulfilled!
"Expeditions in the Occult Orbs is life-risking. The pressure on the shoulders of the Orb Patrollers is enormous, often making them crazy or bewildered by the demons.
"To help them blow off the stress and recover faster, Occult Orbs Fellowship spent hundreds of years establishing Empyreal Star City.
"On the other hand, this is also an experiment base. The civil magical equipment and technology retrieved from the Occult Orbs are tested in this place first before they are promoted to other towns on a large scale when the conditions are favorable.
"Much of the technology that you've witnessed in your respective homes can be traced back to Empyreal Star City."
Li Yao observed the citizens on the street with his full attention for a moment. In surprise, he said, "The scent of the residents of this place is so intimidating."
Cultivators were almost as numerous as ordinary people in Empyreal Star City, which was unimaginable in other cities.
Gao Tieyi smiled.
"Residents of Empyreal Star City are partly the family members of the staff of Occult Orbs Fellowship, partly the descendants of the Orb Patrollers from over the past hundreds of years, and partly well, mostly the Orb Patrollers themselves.
"You will be living in this place for the time being."
While he was talking, Gao Tieyi pointed at the giant ball of lights in the center of the square where countless light beams were blinking.
"In the center of the square, you can find the mainframe crystal processor of Empyreal Star City which boasts amazing computational ability. You can ask it for help should you come across any problems in the future.
"There are countless training rooms and arenas in Empyreal Star City. Your current task is to find a place to crash at. Then, you can train yourself or participate in matches at your will, before inputting the most satisfactory videos into the mainframe crystal processor.
"Teams short of hands will look for new members through the mainframe crystal processor. If they are interested in you, they will send an invitation to you.
"In such cases, you will be able to check the basic information and mission videos of the teams which have invited you. If you think their style is not fit for you, you can turn them down.
"One thing I need to remind you is that the key facilities in Empyreal Star City such as training rooms and arenas do not accept the legal tender of the federation. They only accept 'contribution points'.
"Since you are all newcomers, the mainframe crystal processor will allocate some complimentary contribution points to you according to your past accomplishments and your current strength, which should be enough for your daily training in Empyreal Star City for the next month.
"Train yourselves well in the coming month and prove your capability to the top 100 teams!
"Of course, you can also choose to form a team among the seven of you and challenge the last ten teams in the Rank of Stars at the end of this month.
"If you run out of contribution points and none of the top 100 teams are willing to accept you, you will be eliminated immediately.
"Anyways, good luck to you all!"
Bonus Chapter (4/4)
Bonus chapters will be released on 09:00 (UTC +8) every day.
Power Ranking 16-20 --> 11 chapters/week (7 basic + 4 bonus)
Power Ranking 11-15 --> 13 chapters/week (7 basic + 6 bonus)
Power Ranking 4-10 --> double release
Power Ranking 1-3 --> triple release